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April 29, 2015

Hybrid cloud: can it protect the enterprise from security breaches?

Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Strategist at Bitdefender examines whether adopting a hybrid cloud model can help organisations to minimise the damage of data theft.


Hybrid cloud adoption is in the midst of a boom period and is expected to increase significantly in the next four years, according to recent research . This is unsurprising, as businesses that adhere to a hybrid approach are theoretically able to reap the benefits of both worlds – the public and private cloud.

The public cloud allows for cost-effective IT operations, reducing the total cost of ownership with the added benefit of enhanced agility. This means that a company will no longer be limited by the amount of hardware in its datacentre and can scale its resource consumption based on its needs. In comparison, a private cloud can be a beneficial avenue, meaning that mission-critical data never leaves the compound of a company’s own network/datacentre. For this reason, organisations that adopt a hybrid cloud approach often use the public cloud for processing power or leverage it with their existing applications already in the datacentre.

Going hybrid: is security elevated or hampered?
The big question that many organisations are currently asking is whether a hybrid approach of cloud and on-premise systems is any safer than entrusting all of a company’s data to the cloud. Best practice dictates that all of an organisation’s data should not be stored in one location, placing it at elevated risk of a wide variety of unfortunate events – including security breaches and file corruption.

Relying on public cloud for storing all corporate data raises the risk of inadvertent exposure of sensitive information. Large companies that handle proprietary information and sensitive customer details may want to go hybrid and enforce their own security standards and policies, as to keep such information truly private. A hybrid approach can allow for heavier investment in private cloud security mechanisms, rather than budgeting for new hardware for an on-premise datacentre and focusing on infrastructure concerns.

If companies choose to adopt the hybrid cloud model and implement it in such a way that they can benefit from scalability, performance and fast deployment, they also need to have appropriate security compliance measures in place. Their IT departments may also have to resolve issues involving network complexity, infrastructure dependency and other compatibility-related problems that involve tying together the public and the private cloud.

Is privacy a stumbling block to adoption?
Data privacy and security need to be the top focus of any IT department thinking of proposing the hybrid cloud model. These are not always the biggest stumbling blocks when considering going hybrid, as some companies might have a hard time segregating mission-critical services or the network infrastructure complexity is far too complicated for their immediate needs. Although companies tend to think in terms of "cost" and "investments," the hybrid cloud should not be just about reaping the benefits of offloading non-critical operations to a public cloud, but also about network and data security.

Security and privacy concerns should not be stumbling blocks that prevent organisations from adopting hybrid cloud services – but it comes down to businesses assessing what type of information is sensitive and to what lengths it must go to protect it. While some organisations may look to counter concerns through a strict no-cloud policy, this is not really viable for the vast majority of businesses in today’s corporate climate. Organisations that implement such policies are likely to either have a limited number of customers or services and do not foresee significant growth in the near future, or they’re in full "paranoid-mode" and would rather take care of everything themselves, disregarding costs.

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While we’ve seen a growing number of data leaks, the hybrid cloud model can help minimise damages by allowing companies to enforce stricter on-premise security mechanisms and only rely on the public cloud for performance operations. However, companies are strongly encouraged to use a layered security model when using the hybrid approach to counter not only data leak concerns, but also address fast mitigation and vulnerability patching issues.

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